Survivors of the recent massacre by the Boko Haram in Baga, Borno State, have been narrating their ordeal.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the insurgents stormed Baga two days after the New Year, sacked soldiers of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNTJF, from their base stationed in the town, and killed hundreds of people with residents running for their lives.
Some of the Baga survivors have arrived the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, and are currently in a displaced persons camp, which is a newly completed housing estate built by the state government and named after Shettima Ali Monguno, Nigeria’s former Minister of Mines and Power.
While narrating his ordeal, Yahaya Takakumi, a 55-year-old farmer who lived in Doro-Baga for over 25 years, said he escaped with one of his wives when the insurgents attacked.
“I and one of my wives, who was able to escape with me, spent four days in the bush running for dear life and safety,” the farmer said. “I thank God I have arrived here safely but I still have not seen four of my children, my second wife and my elder brother who is a blacksmith in Baga.”
Mr. Takakumi said he fears for the life of his brother after hearing of other attacks.
“Some people said they saw my brother near Daban-Shata some days ago but everyone from that area said the Boko Haram gunmen had carried out a massive massacre of people in Daban-Shata and I fear for his life because only God can say the number of persons that got killed in that part of Baga district.
“We ran for days and we saw dead bodies especially on the Islands of Lake Chad where fishermen had settled; several persons were killed there like insects,” he said.
The survivor said the insurgents “would lay in ambush on the water path and once a boat on canoe comes with fleeing residents, they attack and shoot them all.
“The killings were not done in a day, but that of the first day was massive, both soldiers and our local people were killed; even after they had taking over Baga they kept on attacking other neighbouring villages in the following days.”
Another survivor, Ibrahim Gambo, told PREMIUM TIMES that he was still searching for his wife and daughter at the camp.
According to him, he was part of the vigilante, called Civilian-JTF, in Baga that initially confronted the Boko Haram gunmen before they were over powered.
“In Baga, almost every able-bodied male who is grown up and matured is a member of the vigilante; and most of us have charms that defy guns and bullet”, the 25-year-old truck driver said.
“That was why when the fighting started we were able to arrest many Boko Haram gunmen who we disarmed and even killed some that tried to resist us violently.”
Mr. Gambo said it was the intervention of the soldiers that made them withdraw their onslaught on the insurgents.
“We were actually making great inroad in dealing with the insurgents when the soldiers of the Multi-National Joint Task Force asked us to withdraw that an Air Force fighter jet would soon come,” he said. “Shortly after that, the Boko Haram stormed into Baga almost from all directions; shooting, killing at will. We had no choice than to join others to run.”
The survivor also narrated what he witnessed while escaping.
“We came across many dead bodies, some in groups and others by themselves in the bush; I saw dead children and women – and even a pregnant woman with her stomach slit open.
“We saw a large boat carrying over 25 persons and all of them shot dead; those whose bodies defy guns or bullets, would be tied up and dipped into the Lake water until they die”.
While speaking on the death toll, Mr. Gambo said he could not ascertain the casualty figure.
“All I know is that the death toll is well over 500 because I have seen several groups of killed villagers and the least of such group were five persons,” he said. “The number could be more because it was not all that fled from Baga that was able to make it to Maiduguri.”
Also speaking on the massacre, the District Head of Baga, Baba Abba Hassan, said the casualty was much but not up to 2000.
“Killing 2000 people is not a small number…2000 it is a very large number,” he said from the displaced persons camp.
“All I know as the District Head of Baga to whom most of my people report, hundreds of our people have killed by the Boko Haram and most of our communities on the island of the Lake (Chad) have been attacked and completely destroyed.
“But I cannot tell you the actual number of people killed because many were pursued to the bushes and killed…I can say hundreds have been killed so far. They include women and children,” he said.
He added that the terrorists, who have since taken over Baga and other nearby communities, were well prepared when they came attacking.
”They came with dozens of vehicles and first attacked the Multi-National Joint Task Force location,” he said. “There was resistance initially, especially by the Civilian-JTF but later, the insurgents had upper hand, especially when the armed soldiers had to start fleeing when there was not reinforcement.”
Mr. Hassan added that “hundreds of people are now taking refuge in Maiduguri while the Borno State government had been sending buses to the bushes to rescue the displaced that were trying to get to the city by foot.”